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Sri Lanka's new chapter of cricketing incomprehensible

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Hussey: Malinga just keeps enhancing his already wonderful reputation (1:25)

Michael Hussey praises Lasith Malinga for his four-wicket haul that helped Sri Lanka trump England (1:25)

If you're looking to make sense of Sri Lanka's victory over England, turn back. This is not the place. You've come to the wrong part of town.

Thank you Pakistan for your contributions to the Canon of the Cricketing Incomprehensible. You haven't been usurped exactly. You could be, soon. But take a knee for now, because in the first six months of 2019, Sri Lanka have been in more chaos, blown through more captains, endured more infighting, had a more paranoid coach, suffered more humiliating defeats, complained about more team buses, complained about more hotels, sucked harder at Test cricket, sucked harder at one-day cricket, and yet produced a Test series upset for the ages in South Africa, and now delivered the most surprising result of the World Cup.

Under very few circumstances does a team ranked ninth beat the top-ranked ODI behemoth on the planet. Under fewer circumstances does a team that has won three times as many ODIs as it has lost since 2017, go down to a side that has lost three times as many as they have won in the same period. Even if you didn't quite follow that sentence, even if you haven't quite followed this Sri Lanka team's vomit-worthy ODI form over the past two years, just know that this is pretty much an inexplicable result.

Watch on Hotstar (India only): Highlights of Sri Lanka's win over England

Against a side that broke six-hitting records versus Afghanistan, Sri Lanka stumbled like drunks to 232 for 9, at no stage appearing as if they were in control of their bodily movements, let alone the innings or the run rate. Then, they called on an ageing fast bowler for inspiration, relied on a spectacularly unqualified captain, and brought down the home-team tournament favourites.

In some ways it's no surprise that Malinga - whose weight has often been the hottest issue in Sri Lankan cricket over the past few years - remains the best player in the team. Some worry about what will happen to Sri Lanka when Malinga finally decides to call it quits. Wherever will they find another match winner like this, they wonder. But this fear is misplaced, because if there is one thing we know about Sri Lanka is that from Duleep Mendis, to Arjuna Ranatunga, to Aravinda de Silva, to late-period Muttiah Muralitharan, and more recently Rangana Herath, the island's cricket is happiest when under the tyranny of a mid-30s chubster. When Malinga goes, surely someone else will step up, as they always seem to do.

Even now, Angelo Mathews appears to be preparing wholestomachedly for this responsibility. Thisara Perera is another challenger.

Of skinnier stock, but almost as important to this victory as Malinga and Mathews, was Dhananjaya de Silva, whose current incarnation is as pure a product of Sri Lanka's cricketing chaos as there could ever be. As recently as December, Dhananjaya was Sri Lanka's Test match No. 3. In that position he averages 32.5 - not awful given the consistent treachery of Sri Lankan pitches. Even in ODIs, Dhananjaya has often batted in the top order, but weirdly, in this World Cup, he has become Sri Lanka's premier spinner.

He had top-scored in a Test series whitewash over Australia once, but such are the roilings and upheavals of Sri Lankan cricket, that he comes in at No. 8 or 9 now, and has gone from one of the most promising batsmen on the planet, to being one of the most successful spinners at this World Cup, outstripping the likes of Imran Tahir, Adil Rashid, and Yuzvendra Chahal on bowling average.

Against England, he bowled a slower wide one to have Moeen Ali caught at long off - the wicket that prised open the door for Sri Lanka. Then he dismissed Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid in quick succession - the double strike that swung it wide open. He doesn't spin the ball. He doesn't make it dip. He barely ever drifts it. He looks at all times like he is ambling home from school towards homework he doesn't want to and perhaps never will do.

But then he plays for Sri Lanka: a team that looks listless all year, that rifles through all manner of captains until it by chance finds one that shines like a jewel, that makes heroes out of the old and pudgy, and confounds what seem like the most unconfoundable predictions.

At the South Africa Tests earlier this year, and now at Headingley, Sri Lanka have turned up in turmoil, and won against juggernaut opposition. Through all of this, never have they not looked sublimely helpless. Looks, though, like form, and confidence, and skill level, and experience, can apparently be profoundly deceiving.